David Guest's Blog Posts

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.


unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

David Guest is the Managing Attorney in Earthjustice's Florida office. His countless legal battles have, in one way or another, been all about water. David's motivation to protect Florida's water comes from years of running boats in the state's rivers and lakes, which convinced him that waterways are many people's spiritual connection to nature. When he's not busy keeping Florida's waterways slime-free, David enjoys boating on Lake Miccosukee and watching the birds roost at sunset. His time spent wading waist-deep in alligator-infested waters and living out of dingy motel rooms during months-long trials is validated by the knowledge that, as Julius Caesar once said, "Great battles are decided by trivial events."

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18 October 2012, 2:02 PM
Earthjustice sues to protect a 15-year-old victory in Florida
Fisheating Creek

As everyone involved in the environmental movement knows, we’ve got to stay vigilant with each passing year to make sure that that our victories don’t get undone.

So, on Oct. 2, the Florida office of Earthjustice filed suit to protect a landmark citizen’s victory that we won in a jury trial 15 years ago. Once again, we find ourselves sharpening swords to slay a dragon that we thought we’d already vanquished. And the newest move by the state has an Alice-in-Wonderland quality—the upside-down world.

In a nutshell, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection is ordering a plan to build roads through wetlands—which, of course, it is supposed to be protecting—then using several hundred dump trucks full of sand provided by a giant agribusiness corporation to block a waterway which unquestionably belongs to the public. The corporation—the Lykes Brothers—owns most of the land along the waterway in question, a wild and scenic subtropical jewel called Fisheating Creek. The creek is in the southwest part of the state near the Everglades, and it is a tributary of Lake Okeechobee.

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14 September 2012, 12:35 PM
It's an old story, but 'Sugar Daddy' governor offers new hope
National Park Service Photo

For decades, U.S. sugar barons have been dumping their polluted runoff into the Florida Everglades. Day after day, these politically powerful corporations send chemical fertilizers and pesticides into the great marsh—wrecking America’s only subtropical wilderness in the process.

It’s clearly wrong for sugar plantations to use our public natural resources as their private dumping grounds, and we here at the Florida office of Earthjustice fight many legal battles to stop it.

Recently, we got some curious news. A sugar plantation pollution scheme which was supposedly shelved 24 years ago is now rearing its ugly head again.

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13 April 2012, 2:37 PM
New algae bloom flourishes amid weak state rules
Algae bloom in Florida

As I write this, a new toxic algae bloom has broken out on southwest Florida’s Caloosahatchee River, filling the air with a sickening stench.

We are so infuriated at seeing this heartbreaking pollution disaster wreck our beautiful Florida so early in the toxic algae season. As you’ve read in this blog before, these outbreaks of toxic green slime are triggered by the excess phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage, manure and fertilizer.

During the past three months, our whole office of five lawyers have been working over 12 hours seven days a week reading documents, and getting ready for a trial challenging the legality of the state’s new pollution rules.

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15 February 2012, 3:55 PM
Huge tide of support for Obama to keep state's water clean
Toxic algae choking Florida waterway

A big thank you to the more than 17,000 people who have sent letters to the White House so far in support of strong U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits for sewage, manure and fertilizer in Florida waters. We so appreciate you all having our backs on our quest to clean up Florida’s number-one pollution problem.

As you know, we’ve been suffering down here from repeated toxic algae outbreaks that cover our waters with green slime -- outbreaks triggered by the excess phosphorus and nitrogen from sewage, manure and fertilizer. We had toxic algae and nasty fish kills around beautiful Sanibel Island over the winter holidays. In January, Fort Myers had an algae outbreak on the Calooshatchee River that had people holding their noses because it smelled like raw sewage. There’s been an algae outbreak killing aquatic life in the Indian River for a year, and red tide in the Gulf – which is fueled by excess nutrients -- has been sickening and killing manatees, sea turtles, and cormorants on the state’s southwest coast.

Since our tourists come from everywhere, we need folks around the country – and around the globe – to speak out and help us win the battle against these polluters who are intent on using our public waters as their private sewers. So keep those cards and letters coming to the White House.

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21 September 2011, 5:31 PM
Earthjustice fights to stop epidemic sliming of state waterways
Slime-choked waterway

<Editor's Note: this op-ed by David Guest, managing attorney of Earthjustice in Florida, recently appeared in newspapers throughout Florida. Also, view multimedia interview with David Guest.>

At the end of August, a large, disgusting algae outbreak slimed Old Tampa Bay. Two months earlier, an algae outbreak in the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers turned the river bright green, smelled like raw sewage, and made thousands of fish go belly up. Water with algae outbreaks like this is so toxic that health authorities say you shouldn’t touch it, much less drink it or swim in it. It can give you rashes, respiratory problems, and even kill you.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, found that out the hard way. He swam in the same type of toxic algae outbreak in Grand Lake, Oklahoma in June and said he became “deathly sick” that night with an upper respiratory illness. “There is no question,” Ihhofe told the Tulsa World, that his illness came from the toxic algae in the lake. Oklahoma health officials had warned people not to touch the water, swim in the popular lake, or eat fish from it. Like Florida’s outbreaks, the one in Grand Lake was fueled by the so- called “nutrients,” nitrogen and phosphorus, which come from inadequately treated sewage, fertilizer, and manure.

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24 June 2011, 3:32 PM
Algae season peaks with warm sun and abundant nutrients
Arlington Boat Ramp off of University Blvd. in Jacksonville during 2005 St. Johns River Bloom Event. (Photo: Neil Armingeon / St. Johns Riverkeeper)

As I write this, half of the 75-mile long Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida is covered by nauseating green slime. It’s a heartbreaking sight – dead fish wash up along the banks, and waterfront homes have a pricey view of a stinking mess.

One dismayed homeowner told me he plans to petition local government to lower his property valuation because his waterfront lifestyle is now so gross that no one would ever want to live there.

It is so bad that local health authorities are warning people not to even touch the water, fish or let their pets near it because it is toxic. This toxic algae outbreak is a direct result of too much phosphorus and nitrogen that comes from fertilizer, sewage and manure pollution.

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20 April 2011, 2:01 PM
Don't believe the tourism promoters - tar and oil still haunt coastline
President Obama could still find tar balls today on Gulf coast beaches, as he did a year ago (pictured here).

A year after BP’s oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico, we are analyzing the cleanup efforts and, sadly, find them both paltry and embarrassing.

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued an unbelievably bogus report that says that no further remedial action is needed to clean up BP’s massive mess. Huh? The tourist boosters don’t like to say it, but this oil is not gone, not by a long shot. It exists in floating mats in the ocean, on the floor of the Gulf, and underneath the sand on countless beaches. 

Earthjustice has filed a petition on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation under the federal Data Quality Act which challenges the Coast Guard’s ridiculous claim that no further cleanup is needed. The Coast Guard made its claim in a document called a Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (“NEBA”), which is the government’s method to “evaluate the tradeoffs related to spill response and cleanup techniques,” and to determine how best to strike a balance between “enough” cleanup and “too much” cleanup.

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16 February 2011, 2:38 PM
Rep. Rooney seeks to block EPA's water pollution limits

Florida Slime

From the Now We’ve Seen Everything Department (A large and busy department here in the Sunshine State):

Florida Republican Congressman Tom Rooney has introduced language into the federal budget bill to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing important new public health protections for Florida.

As you’ve read in this space before, the EPA’s new water pollution limits are designed to control the public health threat posed by the green slime that continually breaks out on Florida waterways. This horrid slime is fed by partially treated sewage, animal waste and fertilizer pollution. (Pictures here. ) Florida health authorities have had to close swimming areas and drinking water plants because of this toxic algae. The algae outbreaks can cause breathing problems, sores, rashes, illness, and even death.

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14 December 2010, 11:01 AM
Industry-fed politicians fight court order to cleanse the waters
"As Stoneman Douglas warned: we're not done." (Mark Wallheiser)

Many years ago, a friend of mine was just starting out in the environmental movement, and the late Florida environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas (she authored the classic Everglades: River of Grass) offered some advice.

If you're going to do this kind of work, prepare to have your heart broken, because even when you win, you're never done.

So it is with our landmark lawsuit to get enforceable limits on the amount of sewage, fertilizer and animal waste that run into Florida's public waters. Even though we've had bright green slime covering rivers and lakes, even though health authorities had to close famed Florida beaches because of pollution, and even though drinking water has been fouled, polluters and misguided politicians continue to fight cleanup.

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16 November 2010, 2:33 PM
Rules aimed at fertilizer and waste flows ruining state waterways
Julington Creek Marina. 347 ug/l, M. aeruginosa. Photo taken on July 31, 2009. (Florida Water Coalition)

Our long fight to get clear standards to control pollution from fertilizer, animal waste, and sewage hit a major milestone this week (Nov. 15), when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new, enforceable limits in Florida—the first ever in the U.S.

EPA scientists worked in conjunction with scientists at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set these important limits on excess nutrients—phosphorus and nitrogen—which are wrecking waters in Florida and all over the U.S.

This first set of new EPA standards governs nutrient discharges into Florida's freshwaters and lakes. The limits will be phased in so that industries have time to make needed changes to clean up dirty discharges.

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